Broccoli isn’t a vegetable you would expect there to be many types of. But in actual fact, there are over 20 varieties of broccoli you can grow in your garden?!
Outside of the classic appearance of broccoli; with a short, stocky stem and a full green head, you have the choice of growing:
- white or purple broccoli,
- thin stemmed,
- long shoots,
- and branching broccoli with smaller heads.
Broccoli is easy to grow, and most varieties have a quick maturity offering you a vegetable ready to harvest in just 60-75 days.
So what are you waiting for? Take a look at the best broccoli varieties you can grow for your garden.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a cruciferous vegetable that’s part of the Brassicaceae family. This includes other vegetables such as watercress, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage.
The word broccoli comes from the Italian word for ‘little branch’ or ‘little arms’, which accurately describes the flowering structure of the head of the plant.
Mostly a green vegetable with some purple varieties, broccoli grows on a green stalk and flowering head with small edible leaves.
Broccoli is a popular vegetable to grow due to it containing a high amount of nutrients, including vitamins C and K, potassium, and iron.
Once harvested, it can be eaten raw or cooked, though if cooked, it is recommended to steam your broccoli to retain its nutrients.
Types of Broccoli
When you think of broccoli, you probably picture the classic and popular variety, Calabrese. This type has a thick stem with a wide, green flowering head.
However, outside of this common variety available at your supermarket, you can grow several interesting varieties each with different unique appearances.
Broccoli varieties tend to be classified as one of the following types:
1. Sprouting Broccoli
Sprouting broccoli has a similar appearance to asparagus, with long, thin stems and smaller flower heads.
Depending upon the variety grown, flower heads range in color from green to purple to white. It is sweeter and softer than the classic Calabrese variety.
2. Broccoli Raab
Also known as rapini, broccoli raab has a lot more leaves and smaller flower heads. The whole vegetable is edible, though it offers a bitter flavor compared with other varieties with a nutty, almost turnip taste.
3. Gai-lon / Chinese Broccoli
Chinese broccoli has thick, long green stems and small flower heads with large leaves. Due to being more readily available within Asia, it is a staple vegetable used in Asia, particularly in Chinese cooking. It is very tender once cooked and tastes similar to broccoli.
Similar to broccoli and cauliflower, romanesco broccoli is a unique variety with tight, almost spiral-shaped flower heads.
Like the classic broccoli variety, romanesco grows on one thick stem with flower heads bunched together and tightly compact. It has a milder taste compared with other varieties with a sweet, nutty flavor.
Broccolini is baby broccoli with thinner stems and small florets. Originally developed in Japan, it’s a hybrid plant made from broccoli and Chinese kale to produce a flavourful variety. Compared to other varieties, broccolini has a sweeter flavor, especially when cooked.
5 Best Broccoli Varieties
Now you know the different types of broccoli available, here is a narrowed down list of some of the best broccoli varieties you can plant in your garden and enjoy in your kitchen:
Belstar is a broccoli variety with the classic thick, green stem and large, compact flower head. Belstar is a great choice if you live in a cooler climate as it does not grow well in hot temperatures.
They have a strong flavor and are full of nutrients such as fiber, manganese, and vitamin C.
It can be planted in spring or summer in well-drained soil with some shade. Belstar broccoli is ready to harvest within 66 days.
If you live in a cooler climate with alkaline soil, this broccoli variety is the best choice for your garden. Once sown in March, it can be harvested between Autumn and the following summer. It is quite a showstopping variety with long, blue-green leaves, a thin, long stem, and small, purple-blue florets.
Green magic broccoli is another variety with a large head made from compact florets. It is known for growing well in cooler climates and offering a large harvest during the spring months. Once planted, it matures in only 60 days.
If you do live in an area with a warmer climate, sun king broccoli might be a better variety for you. It is more heat-tolerant than other broccoli varieties and can even be harvested during the summer months.
Sun King broccoli produces larger broccoli heads and can begin to be harvested in just 60 days from being planted. It is best grown in an area that receives full sunlight most of the day with well-draining soil.
DiCicco broccoli is an Italian variety that is smaller than standard broccoli. It has long, thin stems with a central, compact floret head and side shoots producing smaller florets.
Unlink other varieties mentioned above, DiCicco has a longer maturity of up to 100 days from planting. However, as it grows offshoots, it can provide a longer harvest as you only need to cut each stem you need at a time. The main broccoli plant will then be encouraged to provide additional stems.
For an ideal harvest, it is best to plant a range of broccoli varieties to maximize the length and amount of broccoli available to be harvested. For example, if you chose to plant DiCicco and Green Magic, you could begin harvesting Green Magic in 60 days, then still have broccoli to harvest from DiCicco later in the season.
Select the broccoli that is suited to your climate and soil condition to ensure your plants reach their maximum growth potential.
These broccoli varieties will offer deeper flavors, colors, and appearances to your meals at home compared with common broccoli from the supermarket. Growing these varieties is certainly eye-catching and will offer a rewarding harvest.
For more inspiration on what to grow in your vegetable garden, take a look at these posts below: